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MIssion as Theological Education in Africa 5: Issues to Pursue in theological education in Africa

In their massive collection of essays on theological education in Africa, Handbook of Theological Education in Africa, editors Isabela Apawo Phiri and Dietrich Werner conclude that areas to pursue include the following.[1]  One can see certain assumptions about theological education and the Church in this list that come from a more liberal, Western perspective in points ii, v, and possibly vii (not if ‘ecumenical’ means simply ‘interdenominational but orthodox’).

i.                     ‘creeping secularisation and non-religiosity’
ii.                   ‘inter-confessional (ecumenical) planning and coordination’
iii.                 Bible translation from original languages into African languages as the Bible is shaping African Christianity
iv.                 Cooperation in theological education between institutions to play to strengths and avoid competition
v.                   Dialogue with other religions in Africa
vi.                 Involvement of Churches, particularly in contributing the pragmatic realities of the Church and culture to the more theoretical discussion of academia
vii.                Ecumenical working and living together (rather than the separate development of denominational seminaries)
viii.              Promoting resources, recordings, and publications
ix.                 Strengthening networks and amalgamation of resources
x.                   Use modern technology

A corresponding list of concerns from a more orthodox Christian perspective might be the following:

i.                     Address the challenges of urbanization and globalization to the Church in Africa, including secularism and Western values
ii.                   Separate the liberal theology and agendas of mainline denominations in the West from Biblically focussed, theological education in Africa
iii.                 Establish certain centres on the continent where classical theological education is taught at the post-graduate level for the Church in Africa to have Biblically educated, orthodox theologians: Biblical studies in the original languages and historical theology as the core curriculum
iv.                 Cooperate in theological education without compromise of either theological orthodoxy or mission by sharing resources
v.                   Teach to ministerial realities in Africa, including a knowledge of Christianity, other religions, theologies, social challenges, ethics, and ministry in Africa; and teach to the reality of various academic levels, especially the need for Biblical literacy for all to equip everyone to engage the world and live faithfully before God
vi.                 Integrate theological education with spiritual formation and ministerial training through internships and mentoring in ministry
vii.                Offer a communal educational training and formation that includes the diverse traditions within an orthodox, Evangelical confession
viii.              Develop resources for theological education that are relevant and affordable in the African context
ix.                  Promote networks that encourage academic strength, spiritual health, and ministerial competence in Africa
x.                   Develop various modes of delivery to meet the vast array of needs in theological education at different levels and in different geographical contexts in Africa, and do so by keeping costs low

Frankly, there are many more important areas to pursue for theological education in Africa.  Southern Africa has some unique challenges, given the devolution of the general educational system in South Africa since the 1970s, except in its elite schools.  Higher education is in an increasing crisis in South Africa in general, and the problems also touch theological education.

[1] Isabela Apawo Phiri and Dietrich Werner, Handbook for Theological Education in Africa (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2013).